Corazon Valdez Fabros
Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition
On behalf of the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition, I bring you warm greetings of peace and solidarity from the nuclear free, bases free Philippines. I wish to thank the Organizing Committee of the World Conference Against A & H Bombs for making it possible for me to participate in this worthy gathering of peace forces from all over the world. It is with great joy and gratitude that I return to Japan this year. Last year was a year of "living dangerously" for me. Living thru it and coming out of it with renewed vigor and commitment, I wish to thank many of you who shared with me those moments thru your letters, inspiring notes, bouquets of flowers, telephone calls, prayers and good wishes for my recovery.
Coming to Japan has always been an emotional and learning experience for me for I could not think of any other place most appropriate for its historical experience and contemporary realities: Japan's experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedy and Japan's role as number one ally of the United States in its relentless efforts to maintain, resuscitate, and extend the cold war alliances, troops and bases that give U.S. superpower strength in Asia and the Pacific.
I represent the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition, a campaign-oriented coalition of 129 national and sectoral organizations of youth and students, peasants, women, health workers, church people, labor unions, professionals, urban poor, science and technology, and human rights advocates nationwide, including indigenous peoples movements. Established in 1981, the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition spearheaded the successful campaigns against the construction and operation of the first and only nuclear power plant in the Philippines. Likewise, it succeeded in the incorporation of the nuclear weapons-free provision in the Philip-pine Constitution. In 1991, the Coalition led the national campaign for the removal of US military bases in the Philippines. After the withdrawal of the US bases and troops in 1992, it pursued the campaign for the clean-up of the former US bases facilitating the organization of the Peoples Task Force for Bases Clean-Up.
Allow me to speak a little bit about the Philippines. When talking about our struggles for self-determination and independence, what stands out is the fact that our colonizers (whether it be Spain, Japan or the United States) have occupied our lands and subjugated our people through the power of the gun. And with it comes the abuse and rape of our women and children. The use of military and violence have been a common denominator, whether we are looking at centuries of history or contemporary times.
It is part of our sense of pride to realize that we, Filipinos, were the first in Asia to declare independence as a newly-born nation and to unshackle the chains of European colonialism. Last year, 1999, marks 100 years of US intervention in Asian affairs. The era began on 4 February 1899 when US troops trampled on Philippine soil, undermined the freedom and sovereignty that our forefathers won after 300 years of Spanish colonization, waged a war of conquest and colonized the Philippines so as to gain a market and military stronghold in Asia. The bloody US conquest in 1899 of the Philippines caused the death of more than 650,000 Filipinos or 20% of our population then, mostly civilians. Historians have called that era of the Philippine-American War as, "America's First Vietnam in Asia."
A Continuing Struggle for a Nuclear Free, Bases Free Philippines
In 1991, the Philippines ended US military presence in the Philippines through the historic rejection of the RP- US Military Bases Agreement. To a significant degree, the rejection was built on many years of relentless struggles of a committed anti-nuclear and anti-bases movement in our country. In November 1992, we witnessed the withdrawal of the last US military base personnel from the Philippines. A dream come true for many of us who has been in the struggle for a good part of our lives. Personally, it was a cherished dream that is dedicated for my children and my children's children but one that I least expected would happen in my lifetime. I feel grateful to be around when it did happen but I also feel sad and angry when I remember many friends and comrades who were tortured, even murdered, detained and deprived of their liberties, women who were raped and abused, children who lost their parents, mothers who lost their sons and daughters as a consequence of the struggle.
The US Bases in the Philippines had long gone, but the politics of dependency between the Philippines and US governments continue. Militarism has taken new shapes, and the various trade agreements which globalizes economies and societies, is another form of conquest. As the United States pursued a new military and defense arrangements with the Philippines, and as the United States continues to deny any responsibility in cleaning up the mess they left behind, the anti-nuclear, anti-bases movement have taken on new forms of campaigning and have continued to engage the government in its relentless efforts to never again allow any return of military defense arrangement with the US.
The RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999
It is unfortunate that as we commemorate our independence, we also witness the return of US forces and military exercises in Philippine soil after the Philippine Senate's ratification of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). This development restores the role that the Philippines played when we had the US bases in our country -- as an accomplice in intervention and aggression by US forces in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, or any part of the world.
Like previous military treaties between the Philippine government and the US, the VFA and its onerous provisions show utter disrespect for Philippine territorial integrity, environment and dignity of the Filipino people. The VFA reintroduces US military troops into the Republic of the Philippines, and exemption from judicial jurisdiction over crimes that may be committed by US troops and personnel within Philippine territory among others. The US has considered 22 commercial ports as military access points, opening the whole country to unprecedented US military presence.
More ominously, the VFA does not require the US military to declare whether or not nuclear weapons are on board vessels entering Philippine territory. This allows the transport of nuclear weapons into the country and the possibility of nuclear explosion. It also opens the country to any possible external threat from the enemies of the US.
Other "activities" granted to US forces by the VFA have grave implications for both our public and private security. The National Security agency (NSA) has developed a global surveillance system - a system it calls ECHELLON - which is a powerful electronic net that intercepts and monitors all phone, fax, e-mail and modem signals. The European Parliament in a 1998 report entitled “AN APPRAISAL OF TECHNOLOGIES OF POLITICAL CONTROL” has listed serious concerns and has recommended an intensive investigation of US-NSA operations which utilized military communications facilities in other host countries. The NSA ECHELLON system provides awesome potential for abuse against civilian targets and governments worldwide, even against allies of the US.
In the VFA, the definition of US military personnel includes not only US soldiers and sailors but also "civilian personnel who are employed by the US armed forces and who are accompanying the US armed forces". These US "civilians" include technicians and specialists of the secretive US-National Security Agency, which during the time of US bases operated spy communication facilities at Clark, Subic and Camp John Hay. All private citizens’ communications are intercepted and monitored by the ECHELLON SYSTEM, which is one of the most sophisticated eavesdropping networks in the world. According to Nicky Hager’s book about international spy network, SECRET POWER (N. Hager 1996), the US has not only been using its NSA ECHELLON SYSTEM to collect political, military and economic intelligence not only against its enemies. According to Hager, "there is extensive interception of the ASEAN countries including the Philippines . . . where ASEAN meetings receive special attention with both public and private communications of these countries being intercepted to reveal the topics discussed, positions being taken and policy being considered".
US Security and Defense Policy
According to the 1997 Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review by the US Department of Defense (DOD), US national defense and security policy implemented by 100,000 US troops deployed in the region, is now intertwined with economic globalization such as "protection of the sea lanes of trade" and "ensuring unhampered access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources." Pentagon literature now treats operational jurisdiction of the Pacific Command as "highways of trade which are vital to US national security." It is in this context that the territorial claims in the Spratlys in the South China Sea by five Asian countries can be seen as a potential flashpoint in the region. Incidentally, it is this tension perceived as created by China's aggressive territorial claim in the Spratlys, that has provided justification to restore military presence in the Philippines through the Visiting Forces Agreement.
In a recent Washington Post article by Thomas E. Ricks, 5/28/2000 (US military Focus seems to undergo a continental shift Strategists see Asia as the potential hotbed of Conflict) - - “ . . . the pentagon appears to be looking at Asia as the most likely arena for future military conflict, or at least competition. This apparent orientation is reflected in many small but significant changes: more attack submarines assigned to the Pacific, more war games and strategic studies centered on Asia, more diplomacy aimed at reconfiguring the US military presence.”
“The center of gravity of the world economy has shifted to Asia,” said James Bodner, the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, “and US interests flow with that.” Two US major long-running, military-diplomatic efforts reflects the new attention to Asia. First - renegotiating the US military presence in Northeast Asia and second - the negotiation of the US military re-entry in Southeast Asia, 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War and almost ten years after the United States withdrew from its bases in the Philippines. After settling on a Visiting Forces Agreement last year, the United States and the Philippines have conducted two major joint military exercises dubbed as “Balikatan 2000” and “Exercise Carat”. The revamped US military relationship with the Philippines, one general said, may be a model for the region. Rather than build “Little America” bases with bowling alleys and Burger Kings that are off-limits to the locals, US forces will conduct frequent joint exercises to train Americans and Filipinos to operate together in everything from disaster relief to full-scale combat.
War Games and Joint Military Exercises
The U.S. military units regularly involved in the war games in the Philippines are largely the Special Forces units consolidated globally in Exercises known officially as "Joint Combined Exchange Training" (JCET), now an indispensable part of post -Cold war US interventionist foreign policy to back up US economic globalization policies. Under the guise of training US troops in Joint exercises, these special forces units are involved in collecting strategic information on foreign countries, including everything from topography, backgrounds of foreign leaders, evaluation of readiness of foreign troops, potential landing sites, and the like. While the US Department of Defense would naturally always maintain that they do not participate in actual military operations of host countries, US forces during war games actually fulfill training of local counter-insurgency units, carry out the detection, monitoring and intelligence-gathering missions, most of them secret, to back up counter-insurgency missions.
The war games are an indispensable military component of the corporate
globalization of the Philippines to assure the unhampered operations of
foreign corporate plantations in Mindanao. It is also meant to familiarize
foreign militaries how to use US weapons and military hardware. Joint
training is important in creating a climate of support for US foreign policy
goals and in establishing personal contact and influence between US military
and foreign defense officers. US military exercises are part and
parcel of the Pentagon's expansion of US military might worldwide and to
maximize capabilities for intervention.
Toxic and Hazardous Waste Contamination and the problem of clean up
We are concerned about the environmental destruction that will again be inflicted by US military exercises and port calls as they have done so in the former bases. After nearly a century of military presence in the Philippines, the US military left behind sites contaminated with toxic and hazardous wastes. There is a huge body of evidence of contamination at the former military bases. It is what experts say would warrant a comprehensive investigation and clean-up “if it was in the US”. Allow me to quote the highlights of the Philippine Senate’s Committees on Environment and Natural Resources, Health and Demography, and Foreign Relations Report (Senate Committee Report No. 237) on their findings:
“i. Based on the documents released by the U.S. Department of Defense, there is a substancial environmental contamination in the former Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Field Air Base;
ii. It is evident that the documents released by the U.S. Department of Defense that the United States Government has knowledge of the existence and location of known and potential contaminated sites in the former Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Field Air Base;
iii. The hazardous activities, operations and improper waste management practices engaged in by the United States Government within the military bases under its effective control involved appreciable or foreseeable risk of causing environmental harm;
iv. The United States Government is presumed to know or had the means of knowing that such hazardous activities, operations and improper waste management practices were carried out by the U.S. forces within the military bases over which it had effective control and unhampered access;
v. The environmental damage caused in Subic and Clark was substantial and had serious adverse ecological, human health and economic implications for the residents within the area and for the Philippines in general;
vi. Operations, and improper waste management practices engaged in by the United States forces within the military bases caused the environmental damage;
vii. The 1947 Military bases Agreement, as amended, did not grant any license or authority to the United States to commit acts of tort by indiscriminately disposing off toxic and hazardous wastes as it pleases, destroy the environment and endanger the lives of Filipino citizens in exchange for non-removable buildings and structures;
viii. In as much as the activities conducted within the military bases and under the effective control of the U.S. caused substantial harm, the United states has the corresponding duty to repair and compensate for such damage;
ix. Despite allegations to the effect that the matter of reparation and compensation for toxic contamination is a purely moral question, there is sufficient basis to submit to an international body the legal question concerning the interpretation of Article VII of the 1988 Manglapus-Schultz Memorandum of Agreement amending Article XVIII of the 1947 Military Bases Agreement;
x. Despite allegations to the effect that the matter of reparation and compensation for toxic contamination is a purely a moral question, there is sufficient basis under customary international law for a cause of action against the United States for failing to ensure that the activities conducted by the U.S. forces within the former Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Field Air base were carried out in such a manner as not to cause harm to the Philippines and its citizens.
The continuing tragedy of poisoning and contamination in the former bases is a glaring proof of the irresponsible and reckless way in which the US conducted itself at the height of its military presence and dominance in the Philippines. The heartbreaking stories of babies dying and people suffering within and around the former bases represent an enduring legacy of toxic transgressions whose foremost and vulnerable victims are women and children. The damage is not only physical but it is also profound. This chemical trespass stabs into the future when it robs our children of their potential to achieve and to live healthy and meaningful lives. Our children are all that are as a people. They are all that we have. No one, not even the world's most powerful nation, has the right to steal our children's future. We maintain that the United States should be made accountable for the toxic mess that it left behind in the Philippines.
The necessity of continuing and sustained struggles and advocacy and building linkages across the region and elsewhere are important steps to ensure that the US bases once and for all leave our territories, but more than that, to ensure a global world where children are protected, women's bodies are respected, lives of communities sustained and above all the sovereignty and dignity of nations respected and upheld. I stand before you today in solidarity with your struggles against US military occupation of your beloved land. Let this conference continue to inspire us always as we honor the victims, the Hibakushas, by our commitment to the struggle for a nuclear free and bases-free Asia and the Pacific. Let me close with our warm greetings of "MABUHAY!" and “MAKIBAKA!”
-- Indigenous Affairs, No. 1 January, February, March, 2000 issue, published
by the International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs, email@example.com
-- NFPC January 25 and June, 2000 press statements on Balikatan 2000 and Exercises Carat
--Washington Post, May 28, 2000
--Philippine Senate Committee Report 237
--Keeping the Philippines Nuclear Free (Centennial Lectures on Natural Security), Prof. Roland Simbulan
-- President Clinton, A Corporate Offensive and Okinawan Bases, D. Boone Schirmer/Boston Okinawa Network, April 2000
--Inheritors of the Earth, Peoples Task Force for Bases Clean Up, 2000, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Prostitution and the Bases: A Continuing Saga of Exploitation (Aida F. Santos/Cecille Hoffman/Alma Bulawan)
--Pacific Campaign for Disarmament and Security (PCDS)
Resource Office: 3780 Lake Road, Denman Island,
British Colombia, Canada V0R 1T0
--PCDS Information Update #50/51 April/July 1999
--Center for Defense Information (CDI)
*website - >http://www.cdi.org/issues/Asiamil.html
--US Military Presence and Alliances in Asia-Pacific: Muscle and Enforcer for Multilateral Imperialism, Prof. Roland Simbulan (Address before World Peace Council, Hanoi Vietnam, March 1999)
--Secret Power, Nicky Hager, 1996
--The Assertion of US Military-Economic Hegemony in Asia and the Role of Japan, Romulo Peralta (Confe-rential Network on Peace, Disarmament and Symbiosis in Asia-Pacific)
--Peoples Task Force for Bases Clean-Up Update and campaign materials, email@example.com
--Budget Cuts Push USA into Overseas Market, Bryan Bender, Jane's Defense Weekly, 9/9/98
--Primer on the Proposed Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and US Military Access, Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition
--Why the Senate Should Reject the VFA (A briefing paper submitted to the Philippine Senate on the Visiting forces Agreement), Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition, February 1999
--Security of Pacific Island Nations: Militarisation and the Asia-Pacific Economic Crisis, Nic Maclellan (Pacific Concerns Resource Center, Suva, Fiji
Corazon Valdez Fabros
Secretary General, Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition
Room 312 UCCP Bldg, 877 EDSA, Quezon City, Philippines
31 Dao Street, Mapayapa Village III
Quezon City, Philippines
Telephone/FAX: (63-2) 931-1153
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